Cardinal Reginald Pole, Archbishop of Canterbury

Male 1500 - 1558  (~ 58 years)


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  • Name Reginald Pole  [1, 2
    Prefix Cardinal 
    Suffix Archbishop of Canterbury 
    Born Mar 1500  , , Staffordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    • Stourton Castle
    Gender Male 
    Died 17 Nov 1558  London, , Greater London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 3
    Buried Westbere, , Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    • Cardinal Pole was buried on the north side of the Corona at Canterbury Cathedral.
    Person ID I24347  Alger
    Last Modified 21 Jul 2016 

    Father Sir Richard Pole,   b. Abt 1467,   d. 1504  (Age ~ 37 years) 
    Mother Saint Margaret Plantagent, 8th Countess of Salisbury,   b. 14 Aug 1473, , , Somerset, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 May 1541, London, , Greater London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years) 
    Married Abt 1491 
    Family ID F4039  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • Reginald was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church and the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury during the Dounter Reformation against the Church of England.

      He was born in at Stourton Castle, Staffordshire, England in March 1500 to Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. His maternal grandparents were George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and Isabella Neville, Duchess of Clarence.

      He was a member of Magdalen College, Oxford from about 1512 until about 1519. He was taught by William Latimer and Thomas Linacre, and admitted BA on 27 June 1515. In February 1518 Henry granted him the deanery of Wimborne Minister, Dorset.

      In 1521, Pole went to Padua, where he met such leading Renaissance figures as Pietro Bembo, Gianmatteo Giberti (formerly pope Leo X's datary and chief minister), Jacopo Sadoleto, Gianpietro Carafa (the future Pope Paul IV), Rodolfo Pio, Otto Truchsess, Stanislaus Hosius, Cristoforo Madruzzo, Giovanni Morone, Pier Paolo Vergerio the younger, Pietro Matire Vermigle (Peter Martyr) and Vettor Soranzo. The last three were eventually condemned as heretics by the Catholic Church, with Vermigli - as a well-known Protestant theologian - having a significant share in the Reformation in Pole's native England.

      His studies were partly financed by his election as a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 14 February 1523, which allowed him to study abroad for three years.

      Pole returned home in July 1526, when he went to France, escorted by Thomas Lupset. Henry VIII offered him the archbisopric of York or the diocese of Winchester if he would support his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Pole withheld his support and went into self-imposed exile in France and Italy in 1532, continuing his studies in Padua and Paris.

      The final break between Pole and the King followed upon Thomas Cromwell, Cuthbert Tunstall, Thomas Starkey, and others addressing questions to Pole on behalf of the King. He answered by sending Henry a copy of his published treatise ?i?Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione?/i? which, besides being a theological reply to the questions, was a strong denunciation of the king's policies.

      The incensed King, with Pole himself out of his reach, took a terrible revenge upon Pole's family members. Though Pole's mother and his elder brother had written to him in reproof of his attitude and action, the King did not spare them. In November 1538, Reginald Pole's eldest brother Henry Pole, Baron Montagu, another son and other relatives were arrested on a charge of treason, though Thomas Cromwell had previously written that they had "little offended save that he [the Cardinal] is of their kin", they were committed to the Tower of London, and in January, with the exception of Geoffrey Pole, they were executed.

      Reginald Pole's mother Margaret was also arrested, kept for several years under severe conditions in the Tower, and finally executed in 1541, protesting her innocence until the last - a highly publicised case which was considered a grave miscarriage of justice both at the time and later. Pole is known to have said that he would "...never fear to call himself the son of a martyr". She was beatified many centuries later, in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII).

      Aside from the aforementioned oppositional treatise, King's Henry's harshness towards the Pole family might have derived from Pole's mother, Margaret Pole n?e Plantagenet, being considered the last member of the House of Plantagenet. Under some circumstances, that fact could have made Reginald - until he definitely chose for the Church - a possible contender for the throne itself. Indeed, in 1535 Pole was considered by Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador to England, as a possible husband for Princess Mary, later Mary I of England.

      Pole was made cardinal under Pope Paul III in 1536, over Pole's own objections. In 1542 he was appointed as one of the three papal legates to preside over the Council of Trent, and after the death of Pope Paul III in 1549 Pole at one point had nearly the two-thirds of the vote he need to become Pope himself at the papal conclave, 1549-1550.

      The death of Edward VI Tudor on 6 Jul 1553 and the accession of Mary I to the throne of England hastened Pole's return from exile, as papal legate. In 1554 Cardinal Pole came to England to receive the kingdom back into the Roman fold. However, Mary and Emperor Charles V deliberately delayed him until 20 Nov 1554, due to apprehension that Pole might oppose the Queen's forthcoming marriage to Charles' son, Phillip II of Spain.

      On 13 Nov 1555, Cranmer was officially deprived of the See of Canterbury.?u? ?/u?Under Mary's rule, Pole was finally ordained as a priest on 20 Mar 1556 and raised to Archbishop of Canterbury, an office he would hold until his death. As well as his religious duties, he was in effect the Queen's chief minister and adviser.

      In 1555, Mary began burning Protestants for Heresy, executing 220 men and 60 women before her death in 1558. Pole shares responsibility for these persecutions which - contrary to his intention - contributed to the ultimate victory of the English Reformation.

      In 1557, Pope Paul IV imprisoned him in the castle of St Angelo (with others, including Egidio Foscherari and Giovanni Morone), on suspicion of being Lutherans. The prosecution entirely failed. Pole died in London on 17 Nov 1558, a few hours after Mary's death from illness. He was buried on the north side of the Corona at Canterbury Cathedral.

      Pole was the author of a book ?i?De Concilio?/i? and treatises on the authority of the Roman pontiff and the Anglican Reformation of England, and of many important letters, full of interest for the history of the time, edited by Querini (five volumes, Brescia, 1744-57).

      He is known for his strong condemnation of Machiavelli's book The Prince, which he read while in Italy, and on which he commented: "I found this type of book to be written by an enemy of the human race. It explains every means whereby religion, justice and any inclination toward virtue could be destroyed" [Dwyer, p. xxiii].

      Compiled and edited by Allen Alger, Alger Family Historian - e-mail: alger@alum.mit.edu [3]

  • Sources 
    1. [S59] Royalty of England.

    2. [S1341] Alger e-files - Shaw, George, George Shaw, E-mail from George Shaw - 31 Apr 2015 - Direct Shaw Descent From William the Conquerer (Reliability: 3).

    3. [S53] Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/, Reginald Pole - 1 Jul 2008 (Reliability: 3).


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